Sex & Anatomy

Sex & Anatomy

Hospital lobby
  • What do bodies actually look like?

    Bodies are amazing! They really do come in all shapes and sizes: some naturally carry more weight, some are naturally smaller, some have small breasts, some have different sized genitals…and they are all beautiful and should be celebrated! But our culture does a pretty awful job at showcasing body diversity. From social media filters to porn, even the pictures in sex ed materials you might see in school, it might be easy to think that everybody looks one way. This just isn’t the case. YOUR body is amazing, just the way it is.

  • What is body dysmorphia?

    Body dysmorphia messes with how we see ourselves. People dealing with body dysmorphia might go to extremes, like spending hours on their appearance, changing their eating habits significantly, or avoiding social situations because they're so worried about being judged. It can seriously mess with self-esteem, relationships, and general happiness. If you think you or someone you know may be dealing with this, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Mental health professionals, like therapists or counselors, can help you figure out what is going on and work with you to adjust how you see yourself.

  • What is a vagina and what is it supposed to look like?

    The vagina is a part of the female reproductive system. It’s a muscular canal that connects the uterus (womb) to the external opening between a person's legs. The cervix is the opening between the uterus and vagina that can allow fluid like menstrual flow, discharge, or sperm to pass through. Babies pass from the uterus through the cervix and vagina when they are born. Both the vagina and cervix are inside a person’s body.

    Fun fact: the vulva, which is the actual word for a female’s genitals on the outside, is often mistakenly referred to as the vagina. The vulva includes the labia majora (outer lips), labia minora (inner lips), the clitoris, and the vaginal opening. Every person's vulva is unique and looks different. Seriously. The shape, size, symmetry or asymmetry, and color can vary from person to person. Differences in what your vulva looks like is entirely normal and shouldn’t be anything to worry about. If you are concerned about your vagina, vulva, or any other part of your (amazing) body, you can always ask your doctor about it. They hear this stuff all the time, so feel free to talk openly.

  • Where is the clitoris?

    The clitoris or ‘clit’ is a part of the female body that’s located at the top of the vulva, which is the external part of a female’s genitalia. Think about where your public bone meets the flaps - it’s right there! it’s kind of like a tiny button or bump, and can feel really good when touched or stimulated.

  • What is vaginal discharge?

    Vaginal discharge is natural and normal for people with vaginas. It’s actually a good thing– discharge is like a self-cleaning system and it helps prevent infections. Everybody is a bit different, but in general, vaginal discharge will vary throughout the month. It can be clear or milky in color, and the consistency can range from thin and watery to thick and sticky. It can even have a very strong smell, like a fishy odor, and still be normal and healthy. But remember: Listen to that body of yours! If your vagina or vulva feels itchy or uncomfortable, or the discharge changes, check in with a doctor to see what’s up.

  • Where does a tampon go?

    There are two openings in the vulva— the urethra and the vagina. Pee comes out of the urethra, which is the upper, smaller of the two openings, and should be left alone. Menstrual fluid (period blood) comes out of the vagina, which is the lower of the two openings, so that’s where you’ll insert a tampon. The tampon stays in the vagina, and tends to be most comfortable if it is inserted up closer to the cervix (the top of the vagina). It can’t go through the cervix and into the uterus, and therefore can’t get “lost” in your body, so don’t worry about that. It might feel weird at first, but if tampons are what you want to use to manage your period, you’ll figure it out with practice! (You also have lots of options to manage your period if tampons aren’t your thing.)

  • How should I take care of my vagina and vulva?

    Despite what you may see in some advertising, there’s no need for rinsing or douching on the inside. Cleaning the inside of the vagina actually gets rid of the good bacteria and can lead to infections. Soap on the external skin is okay, just make sure to use unscented soap, as scents can irritate the sensitive skin down there.

  • What should I do about pubic hair?

    Hair is hair is… hair. While mainstream media and porn might make it look like nobody has pubic hair, the reality is that everybody’s got it and what you decide to do with it is completely up to you. If you want to cut it, we recommend clipping your pubic hair with small scissors. If you want to shave, do so carefully- it can cause painful ingrown hairs or infections if you shave against the grain or use a dull blade.

  • Is my penis normal?

    Penises come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are circumcised and some aren’t. Some bend, some are straight. They change when they’re erect (or “hard”). There really isn’t one way they’re supposed to look. But that isn’t the message that we get from society, is it? Psh. “Bigger is better” is a myth! All penises are good penises.

  • What is an erection?

    Erections happen when a penis gets “hard” and they are perfectly normal. A lot of erections happen when you’re turned on or sexually aroused, but many erections happen for no particular reason at all. It’s just a part of puberty. Grreeaatt, right? Erections go away on their own with time or after you ejaculate (or “cum”).

  • What is ejaculation?

    Ejectulation happens when a white, milky substance called semen comes through the urethra, which is the small hole at the tip of the penis. It’s also called climaxing, cuming, or orgasming, and it’s what happens at the peak of sexual arousal. It can feel like a huge release. Importantly, semen contains sperm. If a penis ejaculates around a vulva or vagina, it can lead to pregnancy.

  • Why is my body changing during puberty?

    Puberty is all about change babe-ay! Puberty is a wild ride that encompasses a series of physical, emotional, social, and sexual changes as you transition from childhood to adulthood. It all starts with hormone signals from the brain that kickstart the whole process. Typically, puberty starts between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls, or 9 and 14 for boys. Puberty usually takes 2-5 years to fully complete, but sometimes can be more. 

    During this time, various parts of our body undergo transformations, including the brain, bones, muscles, skin, breasts, and reproductive organs like the penis or vagina. During puberty, emotions feel stronger or more intense than they do as kids. It's actually a pretty remarkable period of growth and development, but it means a lot of change. The thing to remember is that it will be different for everybody, and likely a bumpy road at some point. And that is okay!

  • What is gender dysphoria?

    Sometimes puberty can be a time that brings up intense negative emotions, and trigger or worsen something called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is when you feel distressed about your body not matching how your gender feels on the inside (e.g. maybe you were born into a female body, but you feel most like yourself as a male or non-binary person). Maybe someone already felt uncomfortable in their body, or maybe puberty is the thing that brings up these thoughts for the first time. There are even medicines to pause or stop puberty, which a doctor can walk you through if you are interested.

  • How do male or female hormones change people’s bodies during puberty?

    During puberty, everyone’s bodies produce more sex hormones naturally. Female bodies release sex hormones, mostly estrogen, and this can make bodies "curvier.” A person’s breasts will grow, their hips enlarge, hair grows in the pubic area and in their armpits, and they may gain weight in new places. Female bodies begin to ovulate, which means they start having a period. This means they are fertile and can get pregnant.

    Male bodies release different sex hormones than female bodies. They mostly release testosterone, which often leads to more body hair, growth of the testes and scrotum, elongated penises, and a change in their voice. Male bodies begin to produce sperm that can be released through ejaculation during an erection. This can happen at night, during “wet dreams”, and this is normal. 

    Both female and male bodies grow taller, and their skin can become more oily (thank you, teenage acne). But not all bodies undergo the same exact changes! If you have questions, you can totally ask a healthcare provider about how your body is changing.

  • What does intersex mean?

    • Intersex is a term that describes people who are born with variations in their sex characteristics that don't fit typical definitions of male or female. Intersex traits can show up in different ways, because variations can be in a person’s reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, or hormone levels. 
    • This is actually way more common than most people might think. According to experts, around 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits. That’s about the same as the percentage of people born with red hair! However, due to the social stigma and lack of awareness, intersex people might not even become aware of their individual variations until later in life. 
    • Intersex is not the same as transgender. Intersex relates to physical characteristics, while transgender refers to a person's gender identity not aligning with the sex assigned to them at birth.

  • What do we mean by sex?

    Ohhh s-e-x. So much about what we think about sex is influenced by mainstream perspectives and media. But sex can be a totally diverse and exciting adventure with endless possibilities. Whether it's vaginal, anal, oral, digital, or with sex toys—however you define "sex" and whoever you choose to do it with is your decision. There's no one-size-fits-all approach or “right way” to go about it. Sometimes the goal of sex is having an orgasm, and sometimes it’s about intimacy. The key is that you and your partner feel comfortable and okay with whatever you decide to explore. It's all about open communication, consent, and making sure everyone involved is on board.

  • What is queer sex?

    Queer sex is sex that queer people have. On one hand, it’s as simple as that! But here’s a bit more context. We live in a heteronormative, cisgendered culture, which means that historically, genders were considered binary (male or female); and that “straight” (i.e. heterosexual) sex between males and females was the only way to have sex. But, since the dawn of time, people have been having all different kinds of sex, so this narrow definition doesn't make sense for a lot of people. We tend to think of sex in broad, general terms – there's oral sex, which involves contact between a mouth and penis or vagina; anal sex, which means an anus (butt) is involved; and so much more! Queer sex might mean that there are more than one penis, more than one vagina, and WAY more than one definition of sex.

  • What is "safe” sex?

    You might have heard the term safe sex–but we’re going to do things a little differently over here. We prefer to talk about “safe-er” sex. Just like riding your bike is safer if you wear a helmet, there are a bunch of ways that you can make sexual experiences safer for you and your partner. These include using a condom every single time, making sure you’re using your chosen birth control method the right way, checking in with each other to make sure there is continuous consent, using lube and cleaning sex toys, and being pro’s at communication.

  • What is emotional safety during sex?

    Emotional safety during sex is all about feeling secure, respected, and comfortable during any kind of sexual experience. Think about creating an environment where everyone involved can express their desires, boundaries, and concerns without fear of judgment, embarrassment, or harm. A great way to have and provide emotional safety is simple–keep checking in with your partner. You can say things like, “Is it okay if I touch you here?” or “Can you show me what you like?” Ongoing consent will help everyone involved to keep saying yes to things that feel good, and help people say no if it’s not feeling good or if they change their mind for any reason. On a related note, it is absolutely okay to stop in the middle of sex if you’re uncomfortable for any reason. You don’t “owe” the other person anything; you only owe yourself a sense of safety.

  • What are gender norms?

    Gender norms (and myths) are outdated ideas about how different genders “normally” think, feel, and act. There are still gender norms and myths, especially in hetero (i.e. straight) relationships, that aren’t helping anyone. For example, things like “guys should initiate hookups,” or “dudes should be macho and know how to pleasure their partners”- these ideas are so tired. They put people in boxes, when we all know that people are SO MUCH BIGGER than that! We are all impacted by stereotypes and gender norms. But we are also the people who can help change them by refusing to accept them.

  • How do I know what feels good?

    Well… how do you know if you’ll like jalapeño ice cream… until you try it? So, how are you going to know what feels good for you and your individual body, brain, and soul? Try things out! (And if you really don’t want to try jalapeño because you know you love pistachio ice cream… that’s okay too!) One way to try things out and learn about your own body is to masturbate, which means touching yourself. It’s a normal and safe way to explore what feels good for you. 

  • What is masturbation?

    Masturbation is when a person pleasures themselves, sometimes to orgasm, and sometimes just because it feels good in general. It’s totally normal and totally healthy. It can also help you understand your body better, so you can more confidently tell sexual partners what you like and don’t like.

  • What does pleasure mean?

    Pleasure is a good, safe, satisfying feeling–and that means different things to different people. You can explore your own body to learn what feels good, and practice advocating and communicating that to your partner. It’s important that you know yourself and are comfortable saying out loud what you want, or don’t want, without any shame. Say it loud and proud!

  • How do I communicate to my partner what feels good?

    Your partner cannot read your mind. The only way they are going to know what feels good for you is if you tell them. And vice versa! If you want to tell your partner that what really gets you going is clit stimulation instead of penetrative sex, then tell them that! And be curious about what feels good for them. Communication is sexy, and if it feels unnatural to say at first, just keep practicing. Your sexual encounters should feel fun and pleasurable, and sometimes the only way to make that happen is to say out loud what you want.

  • Does sex have to end in orgasm to be "good?”

    "Good" sex is more about confidence, communication, and creating a safe space to explore with your partner, rather than always getting a gold star for orgasms. Remember, sex can be so many different things to different people. Sometimes, orgasms come with sex. But sometimes they don’t. If you and your partner are talking, enjoying yourselves and each other, and feeling great, then congratulations; you’re having “good” sex.

  • What is porn?

    Porn (full name: pornography) is a general term for media that shows different kinds of sex. The variety is HUGE, and it is totally natural to be curious about sex. But here are some important things to keep in mind: 

    • Porn is not real life. The performers in porn look and behave in a way that is different from most people in real life. You shouldn’t expect real life sex to be anything like mainstream porn. (For example, talking about consent and condom use are rarely shown in porn.)
    • A lot of mainstream porn is aggressive. This can normalize violence and may even lead to sexual abuse if it’s not consentual and planned. Please communicate with your partner if you want to try anything you see in porn; don’t just assume they’ll like it.